Making the Most Out of Your Convention Experience

Now that the PAX hype has picked right back up with passes in the mail, convention season seems to be getting underway. For me, that means the WA State Midsummer Renaissance Faire in just a couple of weeks - and a cool cosplay to go with it - as well as PAX, and, you guessed it, more cosplay. Finally in October, I have GeekGirlCon, where I'll be paneling and reporting. With everything that's going on for me and many, it's just about the right time to raise a few good points about making the most out of your convention season. 

Finding Your Paradise...and Getting the Keys

It's important that when you're spending your money on a convention, you go to the right one for you. There are large, loud, bustling conventions like PAX that feature big titles and big faces, and there are little ones like GeekGirlCon, that can be walked around in a day and enjoyed to the fullest without completely wearing yourself out in just a weekend. As well, finding the right niche is a good thing to think about. PAX is full-on gaming and gaming culture, whereas GeekGirlCon might feature video games here, art and comics there, all around having something for pretty much everyone. Other cons like SakuraCon and Emerald City Comic-Con cater to niche interests and branch out from that point forward. 

Once you've found where you'll be taking yourself, it's time to break out the wallet and secure tickets. For many large cons, the entrance badges themselves may be the largest purchase of your journey. For PAX tickets, they're only available via third parties at this point, or from risky scalpers at the door. Smaller conventions like GeekGirlCon might have door tickets, but it's always better to buy beforehand.

Planning Your Day

Believe it or not, conventions go by super quickly. There are panels and people and demos and limited-time exciting opportunities all for the taking. It's important to have some sort of idea of what you'll be doing on each day so you can plan your wandering time around it. There are apps like Guidebook for PAX, and most conventions have events clearly laid out via a brochure, a website, or a big poster in a common area.

For most cons, the most fun part has to do with what I stumble upon, not what I plan out. Nonetheless, I make sure to plan for 1-2 fun events each day and not commit myself to more. I get to make sure I don't miss out on something timed, and everything else fits where it does. Scheduling out every single minute isn't any fun, but as long as I have an idea of where I'll be headed next, that's good enough for me. Play around with your itinerary-making style and find out what works for you!

Packing Appropriately

Ad a water bottle, pair of socks, and larger tote bag, and this might be it.
The little bag with the band-aid on it has sanitizer, wipes, etc.
Cons. Are. Big. Deals. And not just for what they're about and who they feature - Conventions can have a huge impact on your health and well-being! Make sure your needs are met. Packing appropriately means...

- Having a snack to munch on if you're in a rush
- Having a water bottle to sip on, because you're going to need lots of water from all that walking if you don't want to end up completely exhausted. If you're going to schedule one thing, make it your water breaks.
- Not packing way too much. As a blogger, I pack my laptop only during days that I know I'll be needing to post right after an event, or if I'm repping as media like at GeekGirlCon. Otherwise, I pack minimally. Phone, DS, and chargers all will do.
- I'll iterate it again: BRING YOUR CHARGERS. Your phone will run out of battery. Your DS will run out of battery. Your portable charger will run out of battery. What I do is I bring one emergency portable charger that I only ever use if there's an emergency - otherwise, I'll need to scramble for a wall.

Because Sickness Happens

creative commons, via Valerie Everett on Flickr

I would have made a point before about wet wipes and hand sanitizer, but this is such an important note that it deserves its own section. Conventions are breeding grounds of sickness. Don't test your luck before you believe everyone who says so - the colds that come out of cons are some of the worst! It's so important to stay healthy and keep your hands and face germ-free. Here are some big tips:

- Do not touch anything you suppose more than 100 people have touched in the past hour if you can help it. If you must, sanitize after.
- Soap. And. Water. Use that whenever it's convenient, hand sanitizer whenever else.
- Sanitize your phone case, DS, laptop, whatever with slightly-squeezed-out hand wipes at least once a day.
- Cough or sneeze into your sleeve in order to avoid infecting other people if you happen to get sick and decide to go to the convention anyways.

Have Fun

Wow, and you thought I couldn't get any more generic about it. Like I said before, the best things I've found at conventions are those that I've stumbled upon randomly, be that love-at-first-sight games, new friends, or just strangely heart-warming events that stick with me forever. Conventions are for enthusiasts to get together and be excited in one area, so make sure to do exactly that. Buy cheesy souvenirs. Collect something. Write about your experiences and share them with the world. The con will be as fun as you make it, so make it amazing!

What are your biggest pieces of advice for surviving and making the most out of conventions? Let's talk about it in the comments section.


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